Sunday, 28 May 2017

'footprints in the sand' Sarah Challis

footprints in the sand
Sarah Challis

This is the first book of Sarah Challis's that I have read... it won't be the last. I can't wait to see if I am as drawn into her other stories as I was with 'footprints..' It was a gift, chosen for me as the giver knows I like reading about various cultures. 

I can't say that the synopsis on the back cover really drew me in, but thought it could be more interesting than it looked.

'When Emily Kingsley arrives at the church for her eccentric Great-Aunt Mary's funeral, she is still grieving for her broken relationship with the vain, mean and unfaithful Ted, and has little sorrow to spare. At the wake afterwards, she is dismayed to learn the contents of Mary's will. Emily and her cousin Clemmie must go to Mali, where they are to travel by camel into the Sahara Desert to scatter her ashes.

Clemmie, fanciful and rootless, is thrilled at the adventure. Emily is not. With immense reluctance, she agrees to travel to Mahli, and find Timadjlalen, a place in the desert that no one has ever heard of. Why Mary chose it as her final resting place she cannot imagine, and the thought of a hot, pointless trip is almost too much to bear. But once Emily and Clemmie set foot on the Saharan sand, and begin to uncover Mary's sixty-year-old secret, they come to understand why they must complete her journey...'

I used to have a fascination with the Sahara Desert when I was a child.. I found it hard to believe that so many tribes could live there, so thought I might be able to find out why.

It took a little while to develop an interest in all the characters, but I did appreciate that the chapters were named with the current person's name when they were the main feature of that part of the story. It did make it easier to keep track in a very involved saga. 

It is built up around three main characters, Emily, Clemmie and Miss Beryl Timmis, Mary's close friend. She seems to know far more than she's letting on when the cousins question her, but still had many questions of her own that needed answering. Was she keeping a deep secret or was she angry with her friend for some reason. Of course, there is actually a fourth, who is having a very sheltered journey, or rather her ashes are, nestled in a pug bag around Clemmie's neck, Great Aunt Mary.

I suspect that I would have been thinking more along Emily's thoughts than Clemmie's. The planning seemed very involved, and even knowing that there were guided tours to most of the area they wanted to go to, didn't fill me with confidence. However, once the initial part of the trip was over and the cousins were meeting those who were native to the desert and learning a little more with each encounter, I began to feel that this journey really was going to be quite an adventure. It didn't disappoint. The number of relationships between the various desert tribes, their affinity with the land and their great knowledge of husbandry, draws the reader in. 

I was quite relieved when they moved on from the initial group of fellow travellers, who could have come from any badly scripted travel documentary. They didn't seem necessary to the plot, at least then.

After quite some time travelling and camping in the desert, the promised motel wasn't quite as expected... it was, however, beautifully described, so much so that you could feel the heat and the isolation as they watched their guides leave...

' In a few minutes they were disappearing in the shimmering distance. The men leaning against the wall did not move and we stepped over the sleeping man to sit at a table in the shade. Little brown birds flew busily in and out of the open windows and the hot wind blew gusts of sand and set balls of dry weeds bowling along the empty road. It was the most desolate place I had ever seen. '

You can't help but admire the girl's tenacity as they manage to ride the 'ships of the desert'..riding a camel isn't on my bucket list, especially the very large temperamental ones on offer. 

The meeting with children and their mothers softens the harshness of the desert. The delight of receiving small gifts thoughtfully brought along encompasses all.

There are so many twists and turns, they are best left for you to discover. It is a story of intrigue, loyalty, friendships and trust. 

All is not what it seems and there are layers upon layers as the reason for the request unfolds. Sarah Challis knows how to tell a good yarn.

 Headline Book Publishing
A division of Hodder Headline.

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